Stan Smith's Vision

A friend that I have known since the 70s is legendary tennis player and former number one in the world, Stan Smith. I love both he and his incredible wife Margie, who herself was undefeated in the NCAA while at Princeton. They are as fine as I have ever known! I have often puzzled at how Stan, with his low-key California manner, was able to dominate an incredibly competitive sport like tennis. He is so humble and laid back. Then I went on a PathNorth trip to Croatia that included Stan and Margie. Twenty of us boarded a boat that would stop periodically along the Dalmatian Coast, where we would disembark, hop on our bikes and ride to the next destination. Mary Ourisman, the Patels, the Seegers, Beth Sims and the Follets were among our raucous posse. On one of our 20-mile daily rides, our guide said if any of you want a test, divert up this road to a monastery perched on top. You won’t make it, but some of you might be crazy enough to try. A few of us took the bait. I felt pretty good that I made it about 2/3 of the way up this vertical incline. It was then that I discovered how competitive the Smiths were. They focused on the task and easily made it to the top.

Carol Melton introduced me to an Italian word that captures the Smiths’ approach to competition, ‘sprezzaturra’ that roughly translates to mean, ‘it takes a lot of effort to make things appear effortless.’ Indeed impressive. In addition to Stan’s feats on the court, winning the US Open and Wimbledon, Stan has branded the most popular athletic footwear ever…and that includes UNC graduate Michael Jordon’s iconic Air Jordan. It is likely that you have owned a pair of these cool white leather sneakers at some point in your life journey. They are indeed what is happening with their green tabs and with Stan’s handsome face emblazoned on each. The shoe is timeless and is the biggest selling shoe in history. It stays relevant with the likes of Jay-Z rapping about Stan Smiths and Gisele Bundchen posing nude in them for Vogue…but that is another story. Did you know, however, that Stan is not just an athlete and business success, but has a vision for his work and for this shoe in particular? Stan recently said this:

The shoe is widely bought around the world, and my hope is that it could be looked at as a unifying factor, a commonality of people around the world. People are more alike than they are different. If everyone could realize that, ultimately we could get more people to be peaceful toward different cultures, backgrounds, languages.
— Stan Smith

Quite a vision for a shoe. Politics seems hopeless at bringing us together, perhaps a shoe might! We are so grateful that Stan and Margie are on the PathNorth journey with us.